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Iran Leads Asia in Organ Transplantation: Achievements, Challenges, and the Road Ahead

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Iran holds the top position in Asia for organ transplantation, according to Omid Ghobadi, Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Organ Donation Association. In a press conference for “Jashn-e Nafas” (Celebration of Breath) held at Azadi Tower on September 21, Ghobadi highlighted that a transplant center in Fars province performs 700 liver transplants annually.

This remarkable achievement underscores Iran’s advanced capabilities in the field of organ transplantation and its commitment to saving lives. The success of the transplant center in Fars is attributed to the skilled medical professionals, advanced surgical techniques, and comprehensive post-operative care that patients receive. Additionally, the center’s dedication to continuous medical education and research plays a crucial role in maintaining its high standards of care.

This achievement not only showcases Iran’s leadership in organ transplantation in Asia but also highlights the importance of organ donation awareness and the impact of government support in facilitating these life-saving procedures. Iran’s model of organ transplantation serves as an example for other countries in the region and beyond, demonstrating the potential for medical excellence and humanitarian impact in the field of organ donation and transplantation.

The Evolution of Organ Donation in Iran: From Fatwa to Legal Framework and Ongoing Challenges

The concept of organ donation in Iran dates back to a fatwa by Imam Khomeini, two weeks before his passing in 1989. Despite this, it wasn’t until 1999 that the Iranian Parliament passed the Organ Donation Act. Ghobadi lamented that many lives were lost during this 11-year gap due to the absence of legal support for organ donation. The annual organ donation rate in Iran was a mere 0.2% in 1999. This increased to 14.3% before the COVID-19 pandemic but dropped slightly to 13.24% during the pandemic. Since 1999, Iran has performed over 11,000 organ transplants, resulting in an estimated foreign exchange saving of 250 trillion tomans.

Organ transplants in Iran are free, although a liver transplant in the U.S. costs about $1.5 million. Iran ranks 29th globally in organ transplantation but first in Asia. Despite significant advancements, organ donation rates in Iran remain low. Annually, 5,000 to 8,000 Iranians suffer brain death, with about 3,000 suitable for organ donation. However, only 1,000 families consent to donate organs, resulting in the loss of 7,000 potentially transplantable organs each year. Promoting a culture of organ donation is essential.

Ghobadi emphasized that education, equipment, and cultural factors are crucial for successful organ transplantation. Education accounts for 20% of success, equipment for 30%, and culture for 50%. There is a pressing need to enhance public awareness and acceptance of organ donation. The availability of transplant medications has been affected by international sanctions, contrary to the claims of Western countries.

Organ Transplantation

Iran’s Organ Transplantation System: Medication Shortages and Regional Disparities

Recently, a shortage of specific medication for transplant patients was highlighted on national television, leading to the procurement of a limited supply. Globally, many health systems do not prioritize organ transplantation despite its cost-effectiveness. For example, the five-year cost of a kidney transplant is one-seventh the cost of dialysis. Survival rates for kidney transplants are 96%, while liver and heart transplants have survival rates of 93% and 92%, respectively.

Katayoun Najafizadeh, CEO of the Iranian Organ Donation Association, reported that Nishapur leads in organ donation in Iran, with a donation rate of 41.5% and 22 donations annually. Despite Iran’s overall progress, there are disparities among different regions. While Spain has a uniform organ donation rate across the country, Iran’s rates vary significantly. This is attributed to differences in healthcare systems and oversight. Organ transplantation is not yet fully integrated into Iran’s healthcare system. Budget allocations for transplant centers are made quarterly by the Ministry of Health but often face delays.

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Organ transplantation in Iran is free, with the Ministry of Health covering all costs. In contrast, patients in India must pay the donor, the donation system, and the healthcare providers. This disparity highlights the need for a more structured and timely funding mechanism in Iran to support organ transplantation programs.


Resource: Iranian Students News Agency, May 20, 2024

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